The website editor, writing to his local MP, Stephen Williams, about his concern over the new 'lax' regulations relating to house extensions has now received the following reply:
Permitted Development Rights
Thank you for your email regarding this issue.
I understand your concerns about the reforms to the planning system in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. I agree that if we were to allow larger house extensions to be built through permitted development rights, it could have an adverse impact on neighbours, who wouldn’t be able to influence the development through the planning process.
I am pleased that the Government has listened to these concerns and have announced a new light-touch neighbour consultation scheme. This recognises the importance of allowing neighbours an opportunity to express their views before larger extensions are built. Adjoining neighbours – not just the ones on either side, but those who adjoin the rear of the property as well – will be consulted where a homeowner wishes to use the new extended permitted development rights to build a good-sized extension.
If neighbours think that the proposed extension will have an unacceptable impact on them, for example, if they think that it would totally overshadow their living space, or they would lose their privacy due to overlooking windows, they can ask the local planning authority to take this into consideration. Local Authorities will then consider the impact of the proposals on neighbouring houses and make an objective decision on whether the development is acceptable, or if the impact is such that it should not go ahead under permitted development rights.
This change is an important extra protection that builds on earlier steps taken to ensure rules were in place to protect neighbours and communities from development that would have an adverse impact. Permitted development rights do not apply in conservation and other sensitive areas, for example, and other protections, such as the Right to Light, Building Regulations and the Party Wall Act will all still apply. Extensions and conservatories will still be restricted to being single storey in height, at least a metre from the dividing wall and no more than half the length of the garden. It is also important to note that the relaxation of permitted development rights is only temporary – the previous rules will come back into effect in 2015.
Your concerns about these rules being used to get away with controversial developments are justifiable and understandable. I believe most people wanting to take advantage of the relaxation in planning rules will be those wanting to put a modest conservatory, loft extension or garage conversion in place. However, I am confident that this new consultation scheme, set alongside the protections that are already in place, will ensure that the interests of neighbours are taken into account, and contentious schemes will be stopped.
I hope this reply has reassured you. Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding this or any other issue.
Stephen Williams MP
Member, House of Commons Select Committee on Political & Constitutional Reform
Co-Chair, Lib Dem Parliamentary Treasury Committee